You don’t necessarily need to be an artist or designer to be considered a “creative.” Creative thinking is often expected on demand from people who solve problems for a living, all while making it look incredibly easy to their boss, peers, or clients.
Whether you work as in strategy, business development, management, or consulting, your day-to-day work likely requires you to come up with creative solutions to complex problems, all in a short amount of time. If this sounds like you, you may be considered what’s called an “accidental creative.”
In his book, The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, consultant and creativity coach Todd Henry reveals helpful practices you can use to manage your time and energy to face the unique pressures of your profession. Best of all, Henry’s tips are practical and may be easily implemented in your everyday routine. If you’re looking for helpful ways to increase your productivity and find your creative rhythm, check out a few of these productivity lessons from the book:
Ignore the “Ping”
There’s no denying that technology has improved our lives in many ways. We have access to information with just a few keystrokes and can communicate with others around the world with ease. Waiting in line is even less boring these days with unlimited entertainment and information available right on our smartphones. But, as Henry argues, technology can affect “our capacity to focus and be present in the moment.” He cites what he calls the “ping,” a sensation that prompts him to pick up his phone and check email or the news instead of doing something productive. When we succumb to the impulse of the ping and let it become our master, we permit it to rob us of our precious time (even if it’s just for 10 seconds at a time.) Instead of giving into your urges to check email, Twitter, or mindlessly scroll through the news, try to pay attention to what’s in front of you and stay focused on your work for longer stretches of time.
Focus on “The Big 3”
It’s nearly impossible to move forward on projects when you haven’t identified where you want to dedicate your time and creative energy. Refining your top three creative priorities, which Henry refers to as “the Big 3,” can help you eliminate any guesswork and truly focus on the big-ticket items that need your attention. Keep in mind that the Big 3 isn’t a to-do list or a wish list. Rather, it’s a practical tool to help you focus your attention on the areas where you want to gain creative traction at the moment. He suggests writing your Big 3 on an index card and carrying it in your pocket so you can keep your creative priorities at the top of your mind wherever you go.
Identify your “Red Zone” Activities
You may be familiar with the red zone in football, the area on each end of the football field inside the twenty-yard line. It’s in this small, critical area that teams either fail or succeed. As Henry states, it’s important for creatives to identify the red-zone activities that generate forward momentum for projects and personal growth. Here are some qualities of red-zone activities that lead to success, according to Henry:
Activities that depend on your individual expertise
These are the activities that you are uniquely qualified for because of your expertise or experience. Be sure to identify the situations or projects that may depend on you to move forward.
Activities that increase your personal capacity to generate ideas
Another red-zone activity involves feeding your personal capacity to generate creative ideas and solutions. Don’t neglect these activities, like intelligence gathering, personal study, and meaningful experiences, which foster your ability to generate creative ideas on demand.
Activities that provide cohesion and creative traction for your team
Are there activities that enhance your team’s efficiency and increase forward momentum? Maintain team cohesion by making time to clarify project objectives as well as celebrating your team’s successes.
Activities that feed your energy
Self-care is important. Henry advises not to neglect activities such as “adequate sleep, exercise, or spiritual practice,” especially during the busy seasons of life.
These are just a few of the many practical pieces of advice Henry has for accidental creatives. If you’re interested in learning more about Todd Henry and his tips for finding your creative rhythm and improving productivity, follow his popular podcast, read his books, and check out his tools for individuals and teams.